1999 Volkswagen New Beetle

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1999 Volkswagen New Beetle
Available in 5 styles:  New Beetle 2dr Hatchback GLS shown
Asking Price Range
$1,480–$7,284
Estimated MPG

24–42 city / 31–49 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 5

By 

Orlando Sentinel
The new Beetle has legs.

Now in its second year on the market, the Beetle is still selling well. But VW isn't taking any chances. The car hasn't sold well in Europe, so VW wants to make sure it remains a hot item here. This year, America's favorite time machine just got a little more fun to drive.

How is that possible, you wonder?

The engine now comes with an optional turbocharger. Horsepower gets a boost from 115 to 150.

Though the turbocharged Beetle still is no rocket, the added oomph gives the car more of a sporty feel to go with its head-turning looks.

The downside: The price of the turbocharged Beetle is squarely out of the economy class. But that's no big deal. The new Beetle was never really an economy car anyway. It is more of a fashion accessory. To me, the new Beetle is a car for those who like driving a stylish small compact, even though they can afford something larger.

Performance, handling

The regular Beetle has a 2.0-liter, overhead cam, four-cylinder engine. The GLS comes with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder motor that has five valves per cylinder. The added valves help the engine run much smoother than the 2.0-liter, but it lacks low speed muscle.

Our test car really got moving only when the tachometer needle climbed to about 3,500 rpm. Performance from 30 mph to 70 mph was fairly strong. The engine spins quietly at high speeds. The turbocharger, a pump in the exhaust system that blasts more fuel into the cylinders, kicks in seamlessly.

The four-speed automatic transmission (an $875 option) adapts the timing of its shifts to each driver. If you have a heavy foot, for instance, the transmission will stay in each gear a bit longer before shifting so that the engine can rev higher.

Having tested the Beetle with the stick shift and the automatic, I prefer the automatic version. The gearing is such that performance suffers little. And with the heavy traffic around here, the automatic makes the Beetle much easier to drive.

The terrific four-wheel independent suspension system is one reason I view this Beetle as more than an economy car. The ride is uncommonly smooth and quiet. You hardly feel most small bumps. The Beetle is very stable at all speeds. I particularly like the solid, responsive feel of the power rack-and-pinion steering system and the powerful four-wheel, anti-lock disc brakes.

The Beetle is an easy car to drive, one that inspires trust. You quickly get a feel for its dimensions and its performance, and you feel comfortable.

Fit and finish

The test cars I get usually have no more than a few thousand miles. Our black Beetle GLS turned over 10,000 miles during the week I drove it. Undoubtedly, those were very hard miles.

Many auto writers are known for pounding the daylights out of test cars. Usually after a car leaves the press fleet, it goes straight to the crusher or it's sent back to the factory and dissected by micrometer- wiel ding engineers micro-measuring the tiniest of flaws.

Our high mileage test car gave me a good opportunity to see how the Beetle will hold up under hard use. The verdict: The new Mexcian-made Beetle can take a pretty good licking without making any ticking noises, rattles or squeaks -- and without suffering other maladies. I detected only one flaw in our test car: The air-bag warning light wouldn't go off, despite a trip to the dealer for a fix. Everything else worked flawlessly.

Our test car came with leather upholstery, which added $850 to the price tag. The front bucket seats, though somewhat hard, provided good support. I took some extended trips in the Beetle and felt fine. The upholstery is perforated and looks good. It also helps keep the heat from building between your body and the seat.

Rear seat room is good for a small car. There is plenty of headroom, and two adults can ride in the back comfortably. The rear headrests block vision, so I drove with them removed. With the rear seat folded forward, there is good storage room for large items, such as a golf bag or half a dozen bags of groceries.

The GLS comes loaded. Standard items include air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and remote control door locks, cruise control and an AM/FM cassette radio. There's also a tilt steering wheel, front and side air bags and daytime running lights.

A few minor suggestions: The air conditioning fan doesn't blow strongly enough. A more powerful fan would help get the hot air moving inside the car.

Also, the GLS has no special badges to distinguish it from the standard-issue Beetle. A really cool chrome "turbo" script could be placed on the rear hatchback. And it would pay homage to the original model, which had the model or engine size noted on the engine cover during some model years.

Except for the Mazda Miata, there aren't too many small cars that pack as much fun per dollar as the Beetle.

1999 Volkswagen Beetle GLS

Base price: $19,000. Safety: Dual front and side air bags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights and side-impact p rotection. Price as tested: $21,560. EPA rating: 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway. Incentives: None.


    Expert Reviews 1 of 5

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